STAR Sutton Grange-trained trotter Nephew Of Sonoko has again raised the bar with a sensational win in the Group 3 Noopy Kiosk Trotters Free For All at Melton on Saturday night.
The six-year-old made it back-to-back victories at Victorian harness racing headquarters with a 2.4-metre triumph over Group 1 star Majestuoso and Brandlo Prince, with another Group 1 campaigner Sundons Courage back in fourth.
As he was in his victory at Melton the previous weekend, Nephew Of Sonoko, or 'Nossy' was brilliantly driven by Lexton-based reinsman James Herbertson, who was at the top of his game on Saturday, ending the night with a treble, including a double for Harkness trainer Joe Pace.
It was the son of underrated Wedderburn district sire Danny Bouchea's third win from 17 starts this season and took his career earnings past the $200,000 mark.
Trainer Ross Graham boldly declared Saturday night's win as the best of Nephew Of Sonoko's career, eclipsing his Group 2 win as a five-year-old in the Aldebaran Park Vicbred Platinum Metropolitan Trot Final at Melton last May.
"I'd say that would be his career highlight, mainly due to who he beat. He was up against some real smart ones," he said.
"He's beaten Sundons Courage a few times, but that's definitely the first time he's beaten the other bloke (Majestuouso).
"Majestuoso's sectionals were extremely good as he galloped out and gave them a big head start, but we still beat him.
"I reckon my boy had a bit in reserve.
"He was driven very well .... it was a great drive. James was on his game Saturday night and he certainly got this drive right."
Nephew Of Sonoko boosted his overall record to 15 wins and 24 placings from 108 starts. His maiden win came as a two-year-old at start number in eight in 2018, while trained by Graeme Dalton.
His new national rating of 97 is a career-high.
It was the first time Nephew Of Sonoko had posted back-to-back wins since his four-year-old season.
Undoubtedly racing in career-best form, Graham is hoping a Group 1 is within reach for his talented trotter.
"We'll keep on going around in whatever he is eligible for. He's definitely going as good as he has, so we'll keep on punching on," he said.
"What he has done in the last three or months, he's developed and got a bit more maturer. Touch wood, I hope he stays that way.
"A Group 1 would be nice, but as we know, they are hard to win."
Herbertson, who has been in the sulky for all three of Nephew Of Sonoko's wins this season, believes he is thriving on tough week-in, week-out racing.
He is similarly hoping a Group 1 moment will one day come.
"He's probably got a couple of strings to add to his bow just yet before he really gets into the top echelon. He's probably that one rung below," Herbertson said.
"But if he can stay there and race consistently for the next couple of seasons coming - he's not an old horse - so he's still got a very long and prosperous career ahead of him.
"He's come a long way."
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